24 hours is the perfect time to explore Mui Ne: a small fishing town in south east Vietnam, only 180km from Saigon. A lesser known part of Vietnam, but certainly worth a visit for the beautiful beaches and incredibly unique scenery found nowhere else in Vietnam. Over recent years Mui Ne has become popular not only with backpackers, but with Vietnamese folk on weekend breaks wanting to exchange the city for the laidback beach lifestyle, fresh air and gorgeous views – it really seems like a world apart from Saigon! After all, where else in Asia can you go from sand dunes to the beach in less than 30 minutes??!
What comes to mind when you think of Vietnam? The thousands of motorbikes in Saigon, the magnificent rice fields in Sapa, the junk boats cruising through Halong Bay, or the beautiful lanterns of Hoi An perhaps? I’m guessing most of you won’t think of sand dunes or beautiful beaches that’s for sure! But let me tell you, there’s a whole other part of Vietnam waiting to be explored! Come with me and see what we can get up to in 24 hours in Mui Ne!
Mui Ne Sand Dunes
Let’s start with the sand dunes seeing as they are the most famous attraction here. Now Mui Ne has two sets of sand dunes – the white sand dunes and the red sand dunes. Head to the white sand dunes for sunrise – they are really beautiful and a must visit when in Mui Ne! You’ll find it hard to believe you’re in Vietnam when you’re here: you’ll feel more like you are in the Middle East than in South East Asia! The white sand dunes are a good 45 minutes drive from Mui Ne village, so you will need to wake up super early (around 4am) to ensure you catch the sunrise!
There are many tour companies that take people to watch the sunrise at the white sand dunes (I will talk about the tours later), but despite there being hoards of tourists there, the dunes are really vast so you can break free from the crowd and you do not feel bothered by the other tourists. When you get to the base of the sand dunes and park up, the locals will tell you it is too far to walk to the top of the dunes and they will try to charge you an extortionate amount for them to drive you there in a jeep. However, no need to pay for the overpriced ride: just walk to the top – it’ll take you 20 minutes if that!
Red Sand Dunes
Then there are the red sand dunes which are only a few miles from Mui Ne village. They are also known as Đồi cát bay. You can see them on your way back from the white sand dunes, or you can go and watch the sunset there in the evening: it’s so beautiful there. You can climb up the sand dunes to enjoy the view (it will just take a couple of minutes to climb them). There were many locals sandboarding on makeshift boards, and you can hire a sandboard if you wish to join in! Sadly there is a lot of litter at the beginning of the dunes so make sure to go further into the dunes to enjoy them to their fullest. See the location on Google maps here.
Mui Ne Fairy Spring
The Fairy Spring, named so as the scene resembles a fairy land, is really unique in Vietnam with its beautiful red-orange colours and limestone formations. Before I went, I didn’t think it would be anything special, but I went anyway as it seemed like a fairly big tourist attraction. And I’m glad I did! It is SO much better in real life than in pictures I’d seen – it feels almost like a small Cappadocia! You can take an hour or so to walk up the spring and back, just take your shoes off and walk barefoot in the ankle-deep water, relax and enjoy the mysterious scenery – it’s a really nice place! Fortunately there are some drink stalls located along the stream as the weather in Mui Ne gets very hot.
The fairy stream is just off the main road of Mui Ne, Nguyen Dinh Chieu. It can be easy to miss as it is not signposted very well, but the entrance is on your left, after you go over the bridge out of Mui Ne, about a 10 minute drive away from most of the accomodation.
Mui Ne Fishing Village and market
Mui Ne’s fishing village and morning market are very near to the Fairy Stream. Try to get there early when the fishermen have come back with hundreds of crabs and fish, and you’ll experience the fish market in full swing and the locals going about everyday Vietnamese life. It is certainly a great place to try out the local seafood for a very reasonable price!! There are several food carts on the beach or you can buy the seafood fresh and cook it later yourself! Also the sunset and sunrise here are just magical!
Transport – jeep tours or renting scooters?
You can do a Jeep tour for sunrise (4-8am) or sunset (2-6pm) for a very reasonable price – I managed to find sunrise tours for 100k dong – that’s less than $5USD! These tours visit both the white and red sand dunes, the fairy stream and the fishing village and are incredibly good value for money! However as you are in a tour you are therefore pretty restricted with flexibility and timings.
Hiring a scooter:
Mui Ne is so easy to explore alone, so if you’re like me and not a big fan of tours, I would totally recommend to hire a scooter and see all the places listed above alone if you’re comfortable riding a scooter. Even if you’re not comfortable, you’ll pick it up fast! Heck, I hired one with no previous experience driving a scooter, the man just pointed to the controls and showed me what to do and that was it, off I went! I just picked it up along the way and it didn’t take long at all to feel confident driving one!
Where to rent scooters and price:
You can usually rent scooters from your hotel/hostel, or they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. I hired a scooter from a vendor for 100k dong (less than $5USD) for 24 hours. No deposit or ID was required, we are in Vietnam after all! I really enjoyed riding around: the roads in Vietnam are pretty good and there wasn’t too much traffic. Now I am addicted to that feeling you get when riding a scooter through Vietnam, nothing can beat it! But seriously, hiring scooters out here is so cheap and gives you a lot more freedom than taking a tour.
Of course, if you can’t or don’t want to drive, the jeep tours are great and I absolutely recommend them! Alternatively you can hire a private jeep for around 400,000VND ($20) and choose your itinerary so you avoid the crowds.
After your tour or once you’ve finished exploring, make sure to spend some time by the sea. Like me, you’ll most likely want to relax after the early start, but there are options to go jetskiing or paddleboarding if you still have enough energy.
Dinner and Accomodation
Make seafood the dish of the day when it comes to dinner! The restaurants here are amazing and very cheap – you can get great seafood dishes for about $4USD! There’s only one main road in Mui Ne so just head down here and check out the many restaurants. If you don’t fancy seafood, there are plenty of other restaurants to choose from!
Most of the accomodation in Mui Ne is located within very close reach to all the restaurants, and even though it is gaining popularity as a popular holiday destination, accommodation in Mui Ne is still pretty cheap and plentiful.
How to get to Mui Ne
Getting to Mui Ne from Saigon is pretty easy. The bus takes approximately 4 hours and there are several buses running throughout the day. If you’re following Vietnam’s typical backpacker trail, you can then head straight on up from Mui Ne to Dalat. Dalat is a beautifully romantic French-infused town located in the mountains about another 4 hour bus ride away. If you are heading to Saigon after Mui Ne, check out my article on 10 things you must experience in Saigon!
Alternatively if you are heading up north to Halong Bay, read my article on Poem Mountain, where you can get some of the best views of Halong Bay!
So, who would have thought all of this is in Vietnam??! I was so pleasantly surprised by Mui Ne and definitely recommend visiting here if you are travelling through Vietnam!
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